Going into the Week 3 of the 2022 USFL season, one thing has become brutally apparent:
The Michigan Panthers’ offense sucks.
In two games, the Panthers have only scored 18 points. Not 18 points per game, 18 points period. To put that into perspective, the Pittsburgh Maulers and Tampa Bay Bandits have scored 26 and 20 total points respectively. This is with one game apiece where the squads were only able to kick a field goal for the entire game.
Week 2 in the USFL: Michigan’s Offense is HORRIBLE
Michigan’s inability to score points is so confusing because they have Shea Patterson, the 1st overall pick in the 2022 USFL Draft, and Jeff Fisher, a head coach who has appeared in a Super Bowl and has one of the highest win totals in NFL history. Even if Shea isn’t ready to be an elite pro quarterback, Jeff Fisher’s scheme and game-planning should be able to adjust to Patterson’s weaknesses and put his player in the best position to succeed. As we all saw last week against the Generals, however, Shea Patterson was running for his life almost every play.
This shows one of two things: A) Fisher has adjusted his ball control style to be more pass-heavy in today’s version of pro football or B) Patterson isn’t getting the ball out of his hands quick enough with the time his offensive line is giving him. Of course, both of these things could be happening as well. Or, as I mentioned last week, it is possible defenders in the USFL are just that good. With that in mind, it’s time to delve deeper into what’s going on with the Michigan Panthers and prepare ourselves for the ultimate way-too-early-to-actually-mean-anything showdown between the undefeated Birmingham Stallions and the unblemished New Orleans Breakers.
Jeff Fisher is Supposed to be Dominating Right Now
As a man with decades of NFL experience as a player and coach, Jeff Fisher is supposed to be running circles around his peers in the USFL right now. Instead, his teams are barely able to hang on as his defense works harder than anyone else to keep their games in reach for Shea Patterson and the offense.
I never expected Fisher’s Panthers to be blowing teams out week-to-week, but I did expect the conservative clock smothering system Fisher is famous for to put more pressure on his opponents’ aggressive tendencies and desire to score as quickly as possible. Instead, it looks like Fisher’s team is purely defensive and couldn’t care less what the other side does, as 20 points is often out of reach for everybody because of the horrible kicking, bad passes, and loads of punting Michigan games are becoming famous for.
As the USFL season is still young, there is still a chance for Michigan’s ultra-conservative style of football to win the day as everyone else in the league becomes too overconfident in their playmakers’ ability to get the job done. However, patience has gone from a virtue to a requirement for Panthers fans; and Fisher’s lackluster production on the sidelines might lead to his program digging a hole that’s way too deep to come out of.
Speaking of Holes, When is a Breakers’ QB Gonna Get Put in One?
Unsurprisingly, an offensive line in the city of New Orleans is one of the best in all of Pro Football. Recently, the New Orleans Breakers reminded the public that their offensive line is batting 1.000 through two games and hasn’t allowed an opposing defense to officially register a sack yet. That could be because the Breakers’ O-line is going against the best front 7 in the USFL. In back-to-back weeks, a New Orleans Breaker has won defensive player of the week, and the team’s upcoming showdown against the Stallions in primetime could set the stage for another Breaker to get some shine.
New Orleans held the Tampa Bay Bandits to three points last week, and Vontae Diggs was the Breakers defender who got to carry the colors into the trophy chest this week. In his award-winning performance, Diggs racked up seven solo tackles and ran an interception back for a touchdown against the Bandits’ offense. His teammate, the ever-clean jersey-wearing Kyle Sloter, picked up offensive player of the week honors after passing for 269 yards and two touchdowns.
All of this firepower will be needed to hang with the 2-0 Birmingham Stallions, as their offense is coming in with a blazing 61 total points scored in the early phases of their campaign. Birmingham has embraced a shootout mentality and is sure to give the Breakers’ defense their first real test of the season. However, the real question I have on my mind is: “How many people are going to watch this titanic clash in person?”
Social Media is Great, but Isn’t Selling Tickets how You Pay the Bills?
Every week, the USFL tells us how many followers they gained on social media over the weekend. However, the telecasts are telling us a much different story whenever a camera angle shows us who is (or isn’t, rather) in the stands. I think the USFL’s TV product is one of the best in all of football, right around the quality you should expect to see from an ACC on ESPN primetime game during the college football season. However, the aesthetic of the product is suffering when there isn’t anyone cheering for the big plays.
Whether we want to admit it or not, pro football is a product of the entertainment industry. In the long-term, a lack of fans in the stands means FOX and its LLC for the USFL will need to spend a lot more money than they originally accounted for to keep the league alive. As we’ve seen in the past, this almost guarantees the quick death of a spring football league and the instant elimination of hundreds of jobs within the football economy that will not be re-created anytime soon.
I don’t want this to happen and I’m sure a majority of the people in the USFL would agree with me. However, the bubble system the league uses to cut down on travel costs is clearly burning out the local market despite the very affordable price of day passes. The Birmingham Stallions are currently the most high-profile minor league team in the city. However, selling out a nationally televised primetime game against an undefeated division rival is the best way to show other leagues why the Magic City could host a major league product sometime in the very near future. Here’s to hoping, because the state of Alabama has been waiting on such a thing for a very long time.